Presente and Ready to Serve! Growing the influence of Latinos on Education Nonprofit Boards

By: Dr. Armando X. Orduña and Dr. Jessica Huizenga

LBF Armando and Jessica Blog

While the recent national headlines about the COVID-19 pandemic and disruption to education are rightfully concerning, there are also some transformative things happening that deserve to be uplifted and celebrated.  One such example is Mariangely Solis Cervera, a phenomenal and powerhouse Latina, who was recently appointed as the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer for the City of Boston by Mayor Wu. She’ll be one of the few Latinas in a major city overseeing equity efforts at such a pivotal time.  Another is happening in the Spring Independent School District in Texas where Dr. Lupita Hinojosa was unanimously voted as the lone finalist for superintendent, making her the first Latina to lead the district.

Even though Mariangely and Lupita are 1,900 miles apart they share a common experience: they both participated in Latinos for Education’s fellowship programs aimed at elevating the voice and influence of Latinos within the education sector. And we see that our work is making an impact.

As we embark on a new year, and a new cohort of Latino Board Fellows who are interested in serving on the boards of education nonprofits, we could not be more excited about how this fellowship is meeting the urgency of now.

First, we are building deeper connections than we have been able to do in the past. While the pandemic turned our lives and work upside down, it also forced us to rethink how we build connections and relationships in a new way. While in the past our fellows would meet in-person on a regional level, those geographic boundaries no longer apply. We are able to connect fellows from New England, Texas, New Jersey and Arizona to build a shared community as well as do the hard work of deconstructing what it means to serve on the boards of organizations with White-dominant culture so that they can truly advocate for and serve Latino communities.

While a tangible outcome of the fellowship is our desire to place these fellows on boards of education nonprofit organizations and catapult them into leadership positions, there is a lot more that can happen through this fellowship. These fellows become collaborators, co-thinkers and friends – their ability to impact more than the organizations they serve on is amplified by the fact that they have a network of individuals who share the same values as themselves.

Second, we are filling a critical gap when it comes to serving the Latino community. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen more education nonprofits seeking our partnership because they realized that the Latino voice was critically missing on their boards. This was especially true as many of these organizations were serving more Latinos during the pandemic than before. We have always known that organizations, especially those who work on education issues, are stronger when they have Latino representation within their board and organizations are now making this a priority and we are here to let them know that we have an extensive network of incredible Latino leaders ready to serve.

But it’s not enough to seek Latino representation on boards, it’s equally important to think about how board culture helps Latinos authentically show up. As two Latinos that have served on boards, we know that oftentimes we go into spaces thinking we need to be color-blind, but the reality is that we actually owe it to other Latinos to speak up and advocate for our communities. This fellowship gives fellows the tools they need to navigate white-dominant spaces, and truly build the confidence they need to be the voice of Latinos on the board they serve.

Finally, we are embracing the idea that in times of disruption and crisis, we need to be open to new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking, and innovating. 

The 22 fellows that are participating in the Latino Board Fellowship have the power to shape how education organizations prioritize and serve Latino students. They will shape the future of the education sector, and we’re excited to see what new ideas they bring to the table so we can cultivate those ideas and bring them to fruition. 

We are proud to present the 2022 Latino Board Fellows:

  • Alicia Baturoni Cortez, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Education Programs Specialist (Houston)
  • Michelle Cantu-Wilson, San Jacinto College, Director, Teaching and Learning Initiatives & Special Projects (Houston)
  • Paola Gonzalez Fusilier, Clearhope Counseling & Wellness, Licensed Professional Counselor (Houston)
  • Ruth Lopez, University of Houston, Assistant Professor (Houston)
  • Isabella Maldonado, Texas Education Agency, District Support Specialist (Houston)
  • Amira Plascencia, Shell, Technical Translator (Houston)
  • Mary Jane Sotelo, Fifth Third Bank, Vice President (Houston)
  • Michelle Tovar, Holocaust Museum Houston, Director of Public Engagement (Houston)
  • Julie Lara, Texas Education Agency, Director (National)
  • Michelle Mercado, TNTP, Vice President, Southwest Region (National)
  • Daniel Sanchez, Board of Directors, various media and telecommunications companies (National)
  • Jennifer Welch, Passaic Public Schools, Teacher (National)
  • Benjamin Cabrera, North Andover Public Schools, Director of Math (New England)
  • Shirley Cardona, Ellevation Education, Vice President of Marketing (New England)
  • Tasha Espendez, Raising A Reader Massachusetts, Associate Program Director (New England)
  • Brian Gonzalez, Sigo Seguros, Vice President of Marketing (New England)
  • Erasmo Montalvan, Pearson, Director of Business Development (New England)
  • Carlos Quintanilla, Nixon Peabody, Trade Settlement Specialist  (New England)
  • Shelby Shaw, Mount Wachusett Community College, Director of Retention (New England)
  • Gabriela Taveras, Equal Pay Group, Vice President (New England)
  • Claudia Urrea, MIT, Senior Associate Director for pK-12 (New England)
  • Maria Vega-Viera, Lynn Community Health Center, Quality Control- Coder (New England)